Colorado lawmakers were active in tort reform and other property/casualty initiatives during the 1999 legislative session. Measures have been signed into law that:
* Grant licensed physicians immunity from civil liability while performing volunteer work.
* Grant limited immunity from civil liability to an employer that provides information about an employee to a prospective employer of that employee.
* Limit a business’ liability for damages in any civil action based upon a Y2K failure to the amount of actual damages. In addition, civil actions must be brought within three years of the alleged cause of action.
The act, which takes effect July 1, also grants immunity to a business and its directors and officers if what the bill terms “reasonable and timely efforts” have been made to identify potential Y2K failures in order to attempt to prevent them.
Another new law amends Colorado employment discrimination laws by making harassment during the course of employment an unfair employment practice. The law, effective July 1, defines “harass” as “to create a hostile work environment based on an individual’s race, national origin, sex, disability, age or religion.”
Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed into law a measure that immunizes employers from being held liable for information an employee might disclose to an employee assistance program counselor. The measure also guarantees employees the right to confidentiality in these sessions.
That measure-and another that failed-were drawn up in response to a 1998 Idaho Supreme Court decision that created a new liability for employers, said Dawn Justice, vp-human resources at the Idaho Assn. of Commerce & Industry in Boise.
Insurers in Montana no longer can non-renew or cancel insurance policies based on a single loss unless the terms of the cancellation previously were discussed with the policyholder.
Under another law, the Montana Insurance Department now has just two years from the date of discovery to investigate and prosecute suspected insurance law violations. In addition, the triggering violations must have occurred within five years’ of the date of their discovery.
Also in Montana, clinics that provide free health care now are exempt from tort liability.
Nevada becomes a captive domicile effective Oct. 1 under legislation signed by Gov. Kenny Guinn earlier this month that provides for the licensing and regulation of captive insurers.
Although the bill permits single-parent captives, it was intended to be most attractive to group, association and agency-owned captives, said Allon J. Greene, principal with Tustin, Calif.-based consulting firm New Directions Group. He said he drafted the legislation along with former Nevada Insurance Commissioner James Wadhams.
The measure calls for the Insurance Commissioner immediately to establish regulations to carry out the act’s provisions. Mr. Greene said the legislation “uses the best parts of both Bermuda and Vermont’s captive laws.”
Also in Nevada, legislators approved a bill that says if a party to an arbitration requests a jury trial, the arbitrator’s findings must be submitted into evidence. Another law authorizes parties in civil actions to use a settlement conference, short trial and other alternative methods of resolving disputes if the state Supreme Court adopts rules authorizing these methods. Both laws take effect Oct. 1.
A new law in Utah that took effect June 2 restores proportional liability provisions that had been removed by a court case last year. It allows the allocation of fault in negligence actions to be attributed to all parties who contributed to the injury. Another bill focused on arbitration agreements by physicians and other health care providers and patients. The law, which took effect May 2, details provisions that must be included in binding arbitration agreements, as well as the requirements such agreements must meet.
Several insurance-related bills have been signed into law in Wyoming:
* Insurers no longer are required to issue non-renewal or cancellation notices to policyholders when: a property/casualty insurance policy is transferred from an insurer to an affiliated insurer under common management and control; the insurer changes as a result of a merger, acquisition or company restructuring; or the transfer results in the same or broader coverage.
* Wyoming is permitting tax-exempt religious and charitable organizations to self-insure their auto liability coverage obligations if they can demonstrate to the state auditor that they have met certain minimum financial responsibility requirements. Instead of proof of insurance, these groups may now file cash, securities or a surety bond in the amount of $50,000.
* Wyoming has adopted the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners’ model act that treats service contracts and other types of warranties as insurance products for regulatory purposes. Now companies and organizations that sell such contracts in the state must either purchase reinsurance to back them up or establish reserves to ensure they will meet their obligations. Fees paid for the service contracts will not be subject to state premium taxes, however.* The Wyoming Legislature has granted civil immunity to government entities and their employees for any computational, operational or interpretive errors, malfunctions or failures caused by the Y2K date change. The immunity pertains to all types of computer and information system hardware and software, including, but not limited to, devices containing date-dependent embedded chips.